David Baddiel: Britain’s useful, go-to Jew

Exiting Stamford Bridge twenty years ago on a wave of euphoria after Hapoel Tel Aviv had dumped Chelsea out of the UEFA Cup, who should I walk straight into . . . but TV celebrity David Baddiel. Though feeling more or less meh about Baddiel back then, it was too good an opportunity not to greet the proud Blue, but also fellow Jew, with a cheeky “Who were you rooting for, David?”

“Chelsea, of course,” came the scornful reply, Baddiel’s face contorted into the expression of sourness my late mum used to observe on certain folk when they spoke to or about Jews. (There is a great Yiddish word, which escapes me, that she always used to describe the look.)

I had been somewhat provocative. I kind of knew, even then, that Baddiel’s loyalties would not be as divided as mine would have been (and were, the following year, when Leeds United came up against Hapoel). But he supports a club that I dislike intensely — both as a Leeds fan and as a Jew (Chelsea supporters have always been notorious for their antisemitic chants at games) — which had just been humiliated by the minnows from the Jewish State (to which I had emigrated some five years earlier). It felt, however, like there was something more to his caustic retort.

No one has ever accused me of lacking humour when it comes to my Jewishness, but I never liked the way Baddiel played on his on telly, continually allowing his sidekick Frank Skinner to get a cheap laugh out of every silly, ignorant and often offensive Jewish stereotype in the book. In one 90s sketch (click here), Baddiel and Skinner manage to bring Tottenham Hotspur, insurance fraud, Volvos and hassidim into a nauseating pantomime featuring (“using” might be the more appropriate word) the late Avi Cohen, the first Israeli footballer to play in England. (Baddiel has also been widely criticised for his use of blackface to poke fun at a black footballer.)

Baddiel has since, of course, reinvented himself as the self-styled kick antisemitism out of football tsar, lecturing Spurs fans on how they can no longer identify — as they do quite harmlessly for every Jew (and there are quite a few) that I know — as “the Yids”.

Baddiel’s talent for self-publicity has made him the British media’s go-to Jew. And if the BBC and Guardian couldn’t give a hoot about his hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to anti-racism, they absolutely lap up his sellout stance on Israel. It is the perfect symbiotic relationship: Baddiel loves the spotlight and sound of his own voice — at the same time winning brownie points with fellow (if more ideologically sound, i.e., rabidly anti-Zionist, many would say self-loathing) ‘progressive’ left Jews, such as Miriam Margolyes and Alexei Sayle — and the anti-Israel British media cherish their useful, celebrity Jew who never fails to deliver, proudly regurgitating his “meh” attitude towards the Jewish State at the mere sight of a keyboard or microphone.

David Baddiel (Specsavers National Book Awards by TaylorHerring)

The appointed mouthpiece of British Jewry has been making lots of media appearances this past week to publicise his new book on antisemitism. (He can’t be suffering too badly when one of his main gripes is non-Jewish actors being chosen to play Jews.) And he has been at it again about the Jewish State: “My own position has always been kind of meh about Israel . . . obviously in the last twenty years — not for not good reason on many occasions in terms of the behaviour of the Israeli State — Israel has become a pariah.” (last Thursday’s Nihal Arthanayake show, BBC Radio 5 Live)

One would have to be a bit dim — one accusation that could never be levelled at Baddiel — not to understand the centrality of Israel to so many Diaspora Jews. Polls show that in excess of ninety percent of British Jews identify with the country, feeling that the very existence of a Jewish State protects and empowers them. And one would imagine that an intelligent bloke like Baddiel might see how his mother’s family (not to mention millions of others) may have been spared its calamity in 1939, having to flee Nazi Germany for its lives, had Israel existed then. But even if he doesn’t (or pretends that he doesn’t), to continually publicly denigrate it — especially at a time of increasing antisemitism (on left and right) — is selling out of the most distasteful kind.

Baddiel’s arrogance is matched only by the fragility of his ego — not a particularly attractive combo — as he insults and then blocks (on Twitter) anyone who dares challenge his self-promotional circus. Odd that, from someone who claims to champion free speech. A few years ago, he defended as “comedy” a YouTube video of someone repeating “gas the Jews” — “an artistic decision,” wrote Baddiel (full article) — to his girlfriend’s dog, which he had trained to give the Nazi salute.

I heard that Baddiel didn’t much care for my references to him in my blog post about his cousin, Rabbi Osher — a Baddiel anti-Zionist of the unprogressive Jewish right — who taught at my school. In a failed attempt to entice Osher into appearing in ‘his’ episode of the BBC geneology series Who Do You Think You Are?, Baddiel made some cringeworthy reference to his ultra-Orthodox cousin while standing outside a Golders Green bagel bakery. Osher recalled to me how the documentary’s producer had spent two and a half hours in his Stamford Hill home, over tea, trying to persuade him to participate. But even the very little Osher knew about David — including the “goyishe girlfriend” and partiality for seafood (“Even goyim don’t eat oysters!”) — was enough to convince him that a family reunion should not be on the menu.

Thankfully, neither Osher nor David Baddiel speak for British Jews. But Osher at least is a genuinely proud, practising one. David, on the other hand, knowingly and seemingly happily undermines the interests of the huge majority of them with his continual, selfish, entirely “meh”, entirely me, public pronouncements on Israel.

His self-serving arrogance and hypocrisy need to be called out at every opportunity.

20 responses to “David Baddiel: Britain’s useful, go-to Jew

  1. Not sure why I’ve just received this – but so glad I did. Mike I love how you write and am glad to have found out about Avi Cohen and a little more about David Baddiel. Keep ‘em coming!

    Hope all’s well with you and your family. Xx

  2. Mark Schechter

    Nice one Mickey!!

  3. First of all, I’ve never found Baddiel to be funny or interesting. For me, he’s a lucky Jewish boy who did well in television despite his ability. Having said that, I think his need to position himself as a ‘Jew’ is not only inevitable but connected to his non-Jewish spouse. Philip Roth once wrote that it’s much easier for a Jewish couple to pretend they are gentiles than for a mixed couple, because every moment the Jewish partner looks at their non-Jewish spouse, they’re reminded of their Jewishness. Furthermore, the issues Baddiel has about his Jewish identity are wholly consistent with the natural British, Jewish disposition of being apologetic about their religion. Unlike American or French Jews, British Jews have never worn their identity comfortably least of all because Britain was never a country that welcomed or accommodated foreigners without prejudice. Therefore, I think in the back of his mind and despite everything he professes, he knows that being fully accepted as a Jew has its limits. His peers, whilst happy to accept Jews and the evils of antisemitism, draw the line at supporting the State of Israel. Why doesn’t poor old Dave; “Give a Fuck about fucking Israel”? Because his freedom of choice to have an opinion about the Jewish State is being denied by the people he so desperately wants to impress. He knows that he cannot have any opinion about Israel that is inconsistent with what is expected of him and so, ironically, Mr. Antisemitism has become the useful (Jewish) idiot, who allows his ‘masters’ to obfuscate their own deeply held racism.

  4. David Graniewitz

    An excellent piece. Baddiel’s hypocrisy has irked me for years. He has made a living out of being a Jew for the past 25 years. He objects to Spurs fans using the word “Yid” in a non-pejorative sense yet he actively promoted the idea that Spurs are a “Jewish” club in his programme “Fantasy Football” back in the 90s. By the way, have you seen his film, “The Infidel” which was cringeworthy at best and bordered on anti-Semitism?

  5. Great to have you “back” Mike, and in such good and accurate form. I agree with every word you say about Baddiel, who epitomises all that is wrong and twisted with a tiny-yet-vocally pernicious minority of Israel-phobic British Jews. In the interest of balance though (and I say this as a devoted “Yid”), I have several Chelsea-supporting Jewish friends (surprising quite how many there are actually) who detest Baddiel and his Israel position at least as much as we do, and that Chelsea fans are far from the only ones to direct at us lilywhites vile anti-Semitic chanting… and by the way, whatever Rabbi Osher might think, oysters are absolutely delicious and enjoyed by Jews, AND goyim alike!

  6. And by the way, in response to Josh’s comment about the effect of being a mixed couple, I think it’s more nuanced than that , so much as it depends greatly upon the “nature” of the gentile spouse. In my case for instance, my gentile wife is an ardent Zionist and philo-Semite, all of which only increased her attractiveness for me when we met. Perhaps, the more pertinent issue / question is why Baddiel chose the partner he did, which surely reflects much of who and what he was before he / they became a mixed couple. However, the second part of your hypothesis, is spot on!

  7. Estel Eforgan

    Hmmm. Maybe a little more tolerance? Baddiel annoys me too, but he strikes me as a classic Ashkenazi. Mixed blood, mixed brain. Be thankful that he at least stands against antisemitism. Why cause more intra-Jew hatred. Calm down a bit. If you meet him, try putting some facts about Israel to make him consider the argument rather than snub or insult him.

  8. Stanley Cohen

    Thank you Mike for a beautifully constructed demolition of the celeb image that is ‘David Baddiel.’

    I have never liked the man – ever – and his snide evasion of his origins have always irritated me. As a matter of amusement there are photos of his eminent ultra-orthodox forbears from Gateshead one of which shows a frightening similarity.

    Be well

    Stanley Cohen

    [I never attended Hasmo but my sons Jeremy, Simon and James did during the 80s]

  9. Receiving this couldn’t have been better timed, as I’ve just finished penning a response to a piece by R.Osher in the Tribune(that’s the Jewish Tribune not the communist bog roll) 2 weeks ago in which he advocates(demands?) only using the term Jew for those who uphold Torah and mitzvas. Whilst I admire his uncompromising approach in many ways(especially in his refusal to get involved with his cousin’s doccumentary) I felt this was taking it a little too far, given that many great Jewish leaders(Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l especially) would recoil at such an idea to say the least. As far as David is concerned, I agree with you and others’ comments – a friend of mind once told me “pick your battles”(in the context of domestic issues actually). To bang on about referring to Spurs fans as Yids, but to not be bothered about the virulent ant-semitism given a “hechsher” in the form of anti-zionism is definitely picking an irrelevant issue over a vital one.(Worse, it makes Jews out to be pc whingers with no sense of humour)

  10. Hi Mike, I didn`t really know who David Baddiel was, as I left the U.K. when I was so young. I, however, love your writing and your descriptions of his actions, as well as other left-wingers, such as Alexei Sayle (whom I also wasn`t familiar with. I was more familiar with Belgian anti-Semites, some of whom I “ponced” with to their severe detriment), who would have probably have been topped by “Uncle Joe” for being Jewish Trotskyites, despite their anti-Semitic self-hatred. It`s a pity you stopped “Not the Hasmo Blog”, as I always found it terrific. Talk to you,

    Philip

  11. Thanks for putting into words, what has been bothering me for some time about him.

  12. Baddiel is a self-described “Jew” who is also an “atheist” that “doesn’t give a fuck about fucking Israel” yet simultaneously identifies as “ethnically Jewish”. By ethnicity, I assume he is referencing a certain weltanschauung, a wry sense of humour born of suffering, a particular cuisine perhaps, and other assorted cultural mores typical of Jewish culture. However, by any meaningful definition that collection of traits and ‘ways of being’ is not tantamount to an “ethnicity”. And to top off all this posturing and poppycock, he passionately supports a football team (Chelsea) whose vile Jew hating fans habitually mock the unspeakable industrial murder of the 6 million in the Shoah.

    I think he is hopelessly confused. I believe he wants to be considered a secular Jewish philosopher on a par with Koestler, Cassirer, Husserl, Marcuse et al. But he is not half as intellectually cute as he thinks he is. His Twitter ‘nom de plume’ – “Jew” – is clearly contrived and designed to provoke the anti-Semitic loons and other assorted race baiting knuckle draggers that find acceptance and tolerance on social media. He can then take a virtue signalling “anti racist” contrarian stance against the tide of filth he sets out to deliberately provoke. Why not describe himself as “author”, “comedian”, “writer” etc? His motives are so warped and facile. He seeks the constant limelight and the false idol of fame.

    He was very funny in the Mary White Experience troupe and in his double act with Rob Newman. And as a solo stand-up he used to be very witty too. But as an intellectual – meh, not so much.

  13. Maybe he hates Israel because here he is a nobody, and that is something no performer can live with. The only two things I know about this chap are: (1) he had something to do with a song about the English football team in 1996; and (2) he is Osher Baddiel’s cousin. So, another self-hating Jew we’ll have to welcome at the airport when Labour are finally elected. Not sure about his missus, though.

  14. The Simon Spiro

    Excellent writing as always Mike. Have missed your posts!

    Sadly, having met the “secular Baddiel” decades ago, he left me with the same impression as my first cousin Osher.
    Having experienced horrific memories of the frum-and-mentally deranged Osher, I was hoping that by meeting the “non-observant Baddiel”, I could finally find a happy norm within my ultra-extremist extended family. Sadly that was not to be.
    The one parallel I did find amusing, was that both Baddiels share the same arrogance and self-righteousness whenever they open their mouths.
    Did I say amusing? More like repugnant.

  15. Mike, I’m on your side with a few notes and caveats. I’d always support Villa against anyone because it’s my football life and that part of my identity couldn’t possibly clash with outside-the-stadium allegiances. I’ve had a very bad time as a Villa fan since Corbyn splurged his poison into British society – but even more reason to support my birth club on my terms.

    I’ve had a wake up call. I’m both ashamed and grateful for my naivety before 2016

    Secondly, I totally agree with the Baddiel brothers about the use of the Y Word. I used to think it was communal kinship by Spurs’ fans with the area’s Jewish history and its supporters. Is it bollocks? West Ham and Chelsea’s fans are a constant reminder of how acceptable antisemitism is in society – but no other racism is inside grounds.

    And finally, I confessed I was conned by David’s stereotype jibes in Fantasy Football. I was laughing “with” a fellow coreligionist at ourselves. Now I realise he’s laughing “at” Jews leaving me laughing away realising I had the piss taken out of me for doing so.

    The final straw is his self hating “stupid fucking” prefixes to Israel and now even frummers.

    He’s written a nice handbook about antisemitism for the chattering classes which won’t equip the reader with the most modern form of antisemitism, which is antizionism.

    And by not dealing with that elephant in the room, he will only fan the flames for the 93% of Jewish people who choose to call it Stupendous Fantastic Israel.

  16. Some great comments here. Thank you! I have been trying to get to grips with “stupid fucking” Twitter all day, and it’s Leeds v Palace in a bit, so will reply properly when I get a second. In the meantime, I leave Jonny Gould with one of my favourite YouTube clips (with my cousin’s REISS store as a backdrop) . . .

  17. what a great piece, I have always hated him, even when he was funny (Fantasy Football) – he was lucky to be working alongside Frank Skinner – I will say this about Osher – I remember his lessons vividly, I remember his arguments with Bruce ‘I believe in evolution, not 7 days’ Fishman and one isult I remember so well was Osher saying to Bruce, there is nothing worse than ananti semetic Jew – I have remembered and used that term throughout my life and in a wierd way, thats what David is – an anti semetic Jew
    Clearly a family that divides opinion and I am with Osher (when not being a yid at White Hart Lane)
    Fantastic words Mike – assume you try and make sure he reads it?

  18. Echo the comments about having a post here after so long. And brilliantly done as ever. If it’s not poor blog etiquette, here’s another excellent piece on the same topic https://onthedarkside410122300.wordpress.com/2021/02/07/jews-dont-count-good-polemic-but/

  19. Mike, it’s food to have you back, on form as always. Your erudite scripting is a joy to read. Being Jewish comes in all shapes, sizes and desires. One has to feel sorry for those who are embarrassed if they’re part of the club, after all, apart from Spurs, being a member of ‘our club’ is an honour .. Jeremy Brown

  20. The trouble with calling out self- haters is that when you commit to doing so, you can spend your life doing very little else.

    At the Kotel in the aftermath of the Hebron massacre on the eve of Rosh Hashana when Britain and the Arab mobs had barred and deterred people from going.

    A determined and an over eighty year old Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld met Menachem Ussishkin at the holy site and said,

    “Do not be dejected. This will also pass. Es vet zei nit helphen! (It will not help them) We will achieve our goals. Not through narrow alleyways and not with bowed heads will we enter this holy place, but through boulevards and with a proud bearing.”

    Ussishkin wrote that the words of this amazing sage at that time and place left an unforgettable impression on him and he returned home calmer and more serene than when he arrived.

    Same applies here.

    שבת שלום

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